Ultra


I’m still working on a race recap to my recent adventure in Texas over the past weekend. Most often my writing in relation to those trips maintain themselves over on my running-specific blog. However, after the past week, my heart is so full that my passion and my life have truly intertwined into something beautiful that I feel compelled to share with the rest of the world.

Yes, this is a little emotional.

Two weekends ago my wife and I learned that her mother had passed away. Outside of the immediate sadness and comfort dedicated to my wife, it created some questions on what to do with the entire process. We’re both only children, my wife does not have a father to speak of, and her mother left this planet with no life insurance policy, estate, etc…Plus, Darco and I had already planned to go to Texas the following weekend.

First, I’m blessed to work in a school building with people that are genuine enough to care about your wellbeing, take over your classes, and help you fill out paperwork of bereavement so you can be with your family. I am so fortunate that my coworkers and supervisors were so easily willing to allow me time away from school in the middle of the school year. Only by God’s blessing did I wind up with substitute teachers that covered my classes, took my assignments home, studied them, and helped teach students while I was gone. I am indebted to so many people from this large brick building.

Also, my parents stepped up to do exactly what we needed them to do in such a tough situation: nothing. MC and Jim carried on conversations with us throughout this time acknowledging what had happened, but not dwelling on it either. In many ways, their house was a safe-haven for my wife to retreat to from the onslaught of emotion in regards to preparing the dead for burial. Additionally, both having lost parents over the years, were able to assist us in preparation pieces and expectations leading up to the ceremony.

My wife made a decision to ensure that the funeral was taken care of no later than Wednesday via the funeral home. This was not done in regards to expediting the process in order to head to Texas; it was done because my wife does not like to dwell on what was.  As her and her family met with the funeral director some information came out about funerals. They are not free. Now, take that reality and apply it with the above mentioned piece of Darco’s mother not having anything to take care of moments like this in the event of her passing.

Darco stressed out.

The funeral home, as it turns out, has a ‘crowd funding’ site similar to gofundme and kickstarter, but solely to help offset expenses of the funeral. While we were hesitant, we figured it was better than nothing.

We are fortunate that my wife is employed through the company that she is. They take care of their employees in incredible ways. Due to the financial strain of this development; two things were able to take place:

  1. Darco was able to apply for a ‘cup fund’ in which employees in the company donate to for partners that have moments like these
  2. She was also able to get an emergency loan against her 401K that she had been building since prior to being 20 years old

Being able to have these two pieces were massive in the ability to show the funeral home that funds were available, and the process could go forward.

Her mother passed away on Saturday, this was all taken care of by Tuesday. My wife is strong.

The morning of the funeral I found my wife checking the account that had been set up by the funeral home to accept donations. It was at this point that God’s grace began to completely overwhelm us in emotional, tearful ways. Almost half of the funeral expenses had been covered by people donating; literally throughout the entire United States. A huge chunk of them coming from the running community that Darco and I have become a part of over the past year. Even to the point that one of the runners, the owner of a local coffee shop, asked if they could hold a ‘latte art throwdown’ contest in order to raise funds to offset the funeral costs. All of this combined allowed Darco the ability to not worry about the money, and instead mourn the loved one that she had lost.

The funeral was Wednesday. The substitute teachers had been checking in with me throughout the day via email to ensure my students were following instructions. After the funeral, my wife and I came home to a house to start packing for the trip to Texas. At this point it was not about running, it was about giving my wife a chance to get out, breathe deep, and just recover.

By Friday night we were laying in our hotel room, alarms set to 3:45 AM, and with the funeral still fresh in our minds we also realized that the next morning started another adventure; my first ultra-marathon.

Several months ago I had decided to sign up for this challenge. I wanted to run 31 miles in the woods, on trails in order to become an ultra-marathon runner (any distance over 26.2 miles). I had been training for months to get myself ready for this event, and my wife had been incredibly supportive through the whole journey.

31 miles, 9 hours and 38 minutes later under the hot Texas sun I crossed the finish line with a random lady from Denver, Colorado. My wife and our friend were able to get my finish on film, photos were taken, and water was drank.

Facebook. Exploded.

The amount of congratulations flowing through my timeline looked like we had announced a pregnancy (no, by the way). My social media feeds were more active than my birthday. I had gone an entered myself into a statistic that places me with .05% of the American population. Truth be told; I accomplished something that I didn’t even know was possible.

More importantly though was recognizing the amount of people that were watching it happen. One of my coworkers went to get running shoes at the store that I frequent constantly for running gear on Saturday. When she walked in she noticed a group of workers surrounding a computer, while she was walking up to them, one of them yelled, “Shawn only has 7 miles left!” They were watching my race updates live 12 hours away from the race.

My heart has been so full as of late.

There is not enough to be said or enough to be done to thank so many people that have done so many amazing things for myself and my wife. From being with us in our lowest moments preparing for sorrow and mourning, to being with us from the happiness of accomplishing something I once thought was impossible.

We are blessed in ways that neither one of us could have ever predicted. This is a life that both of us can agree on, that we don’t deserve. God has shown us so vividly over the past week how vital it is to have fellowship with others around us.

Thank you, everyone. I wish I could do better to share my heart’s joy with you all.

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You have no idea how wonderful it has been to see her smile again.

-D-

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